The Sugar Cookie Recipe

I have a bit of a thing for sugar cookies. The simplistic beauty of a perfect sugar cookie is, to me, just impossible to resist. I love the aromatic essence of vanilla and the not-too-sweet buttery pastry. I love the gentle toothsome resistance when they are faultlessly baked. In my quest for a truly blissful cookie I have eaten many subpar renditions, but the recipe I am about to share is one that was worth the wait.

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Here are the criteria I was looking for in my ultimate cookie:

    • Buttery Flavor
    • Notable Vanilla Essence
    • Easily Workable Dough
    • Tender Crumb
    • Clean Cut Edges
    • Minimal Spread

First let’s take a look at how this cookie is made and then I will talk about why this sugar cookie fulfills my requirements.

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1. Squish.  After preparing the dough according to the recipe, squish half of the un-chilled batter onto a sheet of parchment paper into a flat rectangle or circle (you choose :)).

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2. Roll. Cover the dough with a second sheet of parchment and roll until it is about 1/4 inch thick (about 0.5 cm).

3. Chill. Place the dough filled parchment on a firm base such as a cookie sheet, cardboard or foam core and pop in the freezer for 10 minutes while you roll out the other half of dough. (I don’t have a chilling picture-you don’t want to see my overcrowded freezer!)

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4. Cut. Use a cookie cutter and stamp straight down to get clean right sides to your cookies. The more firm the dough is when you cut the cleaner and sharper your cookie edges will be.

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Crowd your cuts to get as many cookies out of one roll as you can. This saves you time and dough quality!

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5. Place. Place your cookies on a parchment lined baking sheet about 1 inch (2.5 cm) apart. These cookies do not spread much so they do not need a lot of space.

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6. Bake.  Bake your cookies at 350 F (177 C) for 8 to 12 minutes depending on the size and your oven.  Remove when they are just starting to turn golden on the edges.

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7. Cool. Cool on the baking sheet for a few minutes and then transfer to a cooling rack to cool completely.  Decorate as desired!

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About this recipe and why these cookies are awesome.

1. Only egg yolks are used in this recipe which means there is less water for toughening via gluten development and less puffing and distortion via water-mediated leavening. This also means this dough can be rerolled more times without losing cookie quality. The cookies above were rolled 4 times without becoming tough and overworked. (Be sure to rechill in between to minimize noted softening of clean edges as in the picture above.)

2. Butter is the primary fat used to give the very best flavor.

3. Some low protein flour is added to reduce the gluten in the batter and provide a light, tender crumb. Low protein flours also spread less than high protein flours.

4. A small amount of cream cheese is added to enhance flavor and improve the workability of the dough. The acid in cream cheese also minimizes toughness.

5. Imitation vanilla and vanilla bean paste give the cookies serious vanilla impact. It may seem  odd to use imitation vanilla but most of the flavor compounds in natural vanilla extract are highly volatile and bake off at the temperatures that cookies reach. They smell great baking, but all of that essence is in the air and out of the cookie. Imitation vanilla (made from wood pulp-a natural source) is primarily vanillin which is found in natural vanilla in small amounts. Vanillin is less volatile than many of the other flavor components of vanilla and hangs around post-baking in the cookies to keep them flavorful. A little vanilla bean paste adds complexity that stays with the cookie.

6. These cookies are mixed with a reverse mixing method where the fat and dry ingredients are combined before the liquids are added. This method coats the flour grains with fat which prevents gluten-mediated toughening and also keeps the cookies flat and pristine looking. Less gluten also means longer work time with the dough.

There you have it.  All the nitty gritty behind why these cookies are easy to work with, delicious and beautiful!

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One more thing to note. Some recipes call for re-chilling your cookies after they have been cut but before they are baked. I tried the recipe without chilling and with chilling the cutouts and I could find no discernible differences. So save yourself some time and pop them right in the oven after they are cut.

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Here is a peek at some of the cookies decorated. I will upload a tutorial on decorating these cookies this weekend.

The Sugar Cookie Recipe

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup (4 ounces, or 113 grams) unsalted butter
  • 2/3 cup (4 ounces, or 113 grams) granulated sugar
  • 1 cup (5 ounces, or 142 grams) all-purpose/plain flour
  • ½ cup (2 ½ ounces, or 71 grams) pastry flour or instant flour* (such as Wondra)
  • ¾ teaspoon (4 grams) baking powder
  • ¼ teaspoon (2 grams) salt
  • 1 ounce (28 grams) cream cheese
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract (preferably imitation)
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla bean paste

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 F (177 C). Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. Beat the butter and sugar for 2 minutes on medium-high speed until light and fluffy. Sprinkle in the flours, baking powder and salt and mix on low until the mixture resembles wet sand, about 30 seconds.
  3. Whisk together the cream cheese, egg yolk and vanillas. With the mixer on low slowly add the cream cheese mixture to the butter mixture. Mix until just combined and uniform, about 15 seconds.
  4. Divide the dough in half and roll each half between sheets of parchment paper. Place in the freezer for 10 minutes to chill. Remove one sheet of dough and cut into desired shapes. Cut shapes as close as possible to get the most cuts out of each sheet.
  5. Place the cutouts on the prepared baking sheet about an inch apart. Bake for 9-12 minutes or until just beginning to turn golden on the edges. Reroll scraps and chill while you cut the next chilled sheet of dough. The dough can be rerolled 3 to 4 times. Cool baked cookies on baking sheet for a few minutes and then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. Ice or decorate as desired. Makes 18-24 cookies.
  6. *If you do not have access to pastry or instant flour you may substitute self-rising flour. Use 2 1/2 ounces (71 grams) self-rising flour plus 1/8 teaspoon salt and omit the baking powder and 1/4 teaspoon salt. (The cookies in these pictures were made using self-rising flour)
https://www.cakepaperparty.com/2014/03/the-sugar-cookie-recipe/

 

 

 

 

32 thoughts on “The Sugar Cookie Recipe”

  1. Thank you for this recipe! The cookies are so cute and perfect! No matter what I do or the recipe I use, I always have issues with at least one pan of my cookies. I have never been able to figure out the “why.” It can be frustrating. I will give your recipe a try. I had to google “pastry” flour and found that I can make my own by using half cake flour and half AP. Have you heard of this?

    1. Yes, I think that would be a good option. I am going to try the recipe using cake flour or potato starch to reduce the protein content but did not want to suggest those as options yet since I have not tested them. Please let me know if you have success with the cake flour and regular flour combination 🙂 Best of luck!

    1. Wondra flour can be found at any (U.S) supermarket. I found mine at Fred Meyer. It comes in a round paper canister and usually has gravy on the front. Vanilla bean paste can be found at specialty shops like Sur La Table or on amazon. Here is the Neilsen Massey paste.

  2. You have a wonderful way with words and have explained the process of cookie baking so well. I have a favourite cookie recipe that I have been using for years and have never been tempted to try another….until now. I’m going to give this a go for my easter cookies. Thank you so much for sharing your obviously wonderful talent for all things sweet x

  3. Thank you for this recipe and research. I am going to try this today as I am not having consistent results with my current recipe. Sometimes they spread and sometimes not. I have tried many different techniques but no luck in helping my occasional spreading problem. In your recipes should the butter, egg and cream cheese be at room temperature? Thanks.

    1. Yes, this recipe works best with room temperature ingredients. Normally I am not a stickler for having ingredients at room temp but with this if the cream cheese and butter are not softened they do not like to incorporate smoothly. I hope you have success with this recipe 🙂

  4. Hi…. I just found your blog – LOVE IT! I’ve been seeking the perfect cut out cookie – and it seems you may have found it. I’ll be giving it try very soon, but was wondering how many of the “egg” cookies did it make (or the round), and what size were the cookies? Thank you 🙂

  5. I tried your recipe last night and I absolutely fell in love with it! This is the best cut out cookie recipe I’ve ever tried. I will stick to this recipe, seriously. Thanks for sharing Summer.

      1. When I was researching for cut out cookie recipes, some literatures talked about the 123 ratios of sugar to butter to flour. Would this recipe work if the sugar content is reduced by maybe 20 to 30%? Should I make any adjustment to compensate for the sugar loss? I want to make this diabetic friendly. I baked with sugar substitutes before but the taste and mouthfeel was such a tradeoff. I am always looking for a way to bake with real sugar but with reduced amount.
        I need to make another batch of cookies tomorrow. They were for my niece’s birthday party which is on sat, but half of them was gone already… LOL

        1. Hi again! The main issue I think you would deal with in the sugar loss is some tenderness reduction, but perhaps if you added a couple extra tablespoons of butter that would help. If your dough seems too stiff with less sugar you could add a little more cream cheese or another egg yolk as well. You could also consider using fructose in the cookies. Fructose has gotten a bit of a bad rap but for those that are diabetic it can be a good option because it actually reduces the glycemic index of the foods you eat it with. It is also sweeter than sucrose so you can use less of it. The main concern with fructose is that it doesn’t cause people to feel full like sucrose does, so don’t plan on making a meal of cookies, (although I have been known to do just that, lol!). I actually bake with fructose quite a bit for my family and it gives a naturally sweet taste. I hope this leads you in the right direction! 🙂

  6. Serendipity! Did you know that the food service packs of cream cheese are 1 oz.? Just what I need for this recipe. I have a 50 pack in my fridge. Yahoo!

  7. Hello Summer!
    I’d really like to try this cookie recipe but we don’t have pastry flour nor instant flour nor self-rising flour in Austria. Those international readers give you a hard time, hm? Sorry!! Is there any other substitute for the flour?
    How many days in advance can you bake the cookies?
    Thank you so much!
    Iris

    1. Hi Iris, Those fancy flours are not necessary. If you have access to any lower protein flour (such as cake flour) you can use that instead but otherwise just use all all-purpose/plain flour. You may have minor issues with gluten and toughening on a third roll out but it should be fine. You can make these way in advance and freeze them unfrosted or you can make them 2-3 days ahead unfrosted and store airtight or frost 1-2 days ahead. Best of luck! 🙂

      1. Hi Summer!
        Thank you for your answer! We don’t have cake flour neither but I took all purpose flour and a bit of cornstarch. It went very well and the cookies turned out great! They had a wonderful vanilla taste. I decorated them with your cookie icing recipe and modeling chocolate. They looked fantastic! I know you prefer the cookies to be soft but I like them to be crunchy. So that was the only thing I didn’t like that much. If I applied the modeling chocolate only with sugar glue would the cookie still become so soft?
        I will definitely make them again!
        Thank you!
        Iris

        1. That is great that they worked! To keep your cookies crisp I would start by baking them a bit longer until they are golden on the edges. Then I would use a buttercream that is butter heavy to create a fat barrier in the cookie. If your icing has much moisture it will eventually migrate to the cookie over time. Good luck! 🙂

    2. Hi Iris
      Just saw ur post while I was checking the recipe and wanted to tell you that cake flour in Austria ist “glattes Mehl”. I live in Austria too and since I started my baking hobby have been searching and researching for equivalent ingredients available in Austria 🙂 hope this helps.

      May

  8. Hi Summer,
    i love your blog. i was wondering if its possible to glue the modeling chocolate with corn syrup instead? we don’t like butter cream, and love the crisp cookies…

  9. Summer,
    Recipe sounds awesome and I’m looking forward to trying it. Do you think I can use this recipe to make snowflake sugar cookies and ice them and use sanding sugar? Also, how do I make sure the cookie dough is not too thick when rolling it out?
    Please advise and thanks!

    1. Yes, Tyler this will work well for snowflakes! In fact I made some this week for a friend but failed to take any pictures of them. Bummer! One good way to ensure even and not too thick dough is to use two dowels as guides. I like my cookies a bit on the thick side so I will 1/4 inch dowels on either side as I roll, but you can use whatever size you prefer. You can also get bands for your rolling pin but I like the dowel idea better. Good luck!

    1. Anything with minimal moisture should do the trick. You could use an American style buttercream or something like the Simple Silky Buttercream or you could use Royal Icing. 🙂

      1. Thanks so much. Can I use just sanding sugar and apply it before I bake it? if not what can I use to put on cookie to use as “glue” to help the sanding sugar stick after the cookies are baked and cooled? Alternatives if I just want to use sanding sugar as design and no frosting. Hope that makes sense- lol.

        1. Yes, you can just apply it before you bake them. You may need to give it a gentle press but it should work fine and embed in as they bake. Let me know how it goes!

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